The president of the United States murdered two American citizens this morning. He had some nameless functionary -- who was sitting comfortably and safely at a computer console somewhere on a well-guarded, probably secret military base -- push a button. A missile was then fired from a robot drone buzzing maleovently in the sky over Yemen. The missile then murdered two American citizens who -- let it be carefully noted -- had not even been charged with a crime, much less tried and convicted in a court of law of any offense.
The New York Times story on the murders relates a number of accusations against the chief target of the attack, Anwar al-Awlaki. Assertions are made, mostly by anonymous officials, that al-Awlaki was "operationally" involved in terrorist plots, although not a shred of evidence for this "operational" involvement has been offered. (Another American, Samir Khan, was also reported to have been killed in the drone hit. It goes without saying that Khan had also not been charged with any crime nor was there any evidence that he ever took part in a terrorist operation.)
It is true that the two American citizens murdered by the president did engage in a great deal of fiery rhetoric urging violent uprising against the American state. This might not be very nice -- but it does happen to be protected speech under the Constitution of the United States. Of course, that quaint document from the horse-and-buggy era has long since ceased to apply, even fitfully and imperfectly, to the operations of the United States government.
It may well be true that with their words Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan "inspired" someone to commit, or attempt to commit, heinous deeds. So has the Bible. So have The Beatles. But to inspire is not to command. Again, no evidence and certainly no proof has been offered that al-Awlaki or Khan ordered anyone to do anything, or that they were in any "operational" role to do so. (Unlike, say, the Nobel Peace Laureate who holds the top "operational" role in the American war machine, which has killed vastly more innocent people than even the most inspired terrorist groups.) If such proof existed that al-Awlaki or Khan played such a role, they easily could have been charged.
But they were not charged -- and were never going to be charged -- with any crime that would have brought their cases into the judicial system. The whole point of these high-profile murders was to establish, yet again, the "right" -- and the power -- of the U.S. president to kill anyone on earth, including American citizens, at his arbitrary command.
The open assertion of this arbitrary power is not an innovation of Barack Obama, of course. He is merely faithfully following in the bloodsoaked footsteps of his imperial predecessors. As I noted in a piece in a piece five years ago:
Bill Clinton's White House legal team had drawn up memos asserting the president's right to issue "an order to kill an individual enemy of the United States in self-defense," despite the legal prohibitions against assassination, the Washington Post reported in October 2001. The Clinton team based this ruling on the "inherent powers" of the "Commander in Chief" -- that mythical, ever-elastic construct ....
The practice of "targeted killing" was apparently never used by Clinton, however; despite the pro-assassination memos, Clinton followed the traditional presidential practice of bombing the hell out of a bunch of civilians whenever he wanted to lash out at some recalcitrant leader or international outlaw -- as in his bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in 1998, or the two massive strikes he launched against Iraq in 1993 and 1998, or indeed the death and ruin that was deliberately inflicted on civilian infrastructure in Serbia during that nation's collective punishment for the crimes of Slobodan Milosevic. Here, Clinton was following the example set by George H.W. Bush, who killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Panamanian civilians in his illegal arrest of Manuel Noriega in 1988, and Ronald Reagan, who killed Moamar Gadafy's adopted 2-year-old daughter and 100 other civilians in a punitive strike on Libya in 1986.
In an earlier piece, in 2005, I noted how the clackety bones of the Clinton Doctrine of Unrestrained Murder was given flesh and blood by George W. Bush after 9/11 (scroll down for 2005 extract, and links):
On September 17, 2001, George W. Bush signed an executive order authorizing the use of "lethal measures" against anyone in the world whom he or his minions designated an "enemy combatant." This order remains in force today. No judicial evidence, no hearing, no charges are required for these killings; no law, no border, no oversight restrains them. Bush has also given agents in the field carte blanche to designate "enemies" on their own initiative and kill them as they see fit.
The existence of this universal death squad – and the total obliteration of human liberty it represents – has not provoked so much as a crumb, an atom, a quantum particle of controversy in the American Establishment, although it's no secret. The executive order was first bruited in the Washington Post in October 2001. I first wrote of it in my Moscow Times column in November 2001. The New York Times added further details in December 2002. That same month, Bush officials made clear that the dread edict also applied to American citizens, as the Associated Press reported.
The first officially confirmed use of this power was the killing of an American citizen in Yemen by a CIA drone missile on November 3, 2002. [This was Kamal Derwish, born and raised in Buffalo, New York, who was killed in a drone attack targeting alleged al-Qaeda operative Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi.] ....
But most of the assassinations are carried out in secret, quietly, professionally, like a contract killing for the mob. As a Pentagon document unearthed by the New Yorker in December 2002 put it, the death squads must be "small and agile," and "able to operate clandestinely, using a full range of official and non-official cover arrangements to…enter countries surreptitiously."
The dangers of this policy are obvious, as a UN report on "extrajudicial killings" noted in December 2004: " Empowering governments to identify and kill 'known terrorists' places no verifiable obligation upon them to demonstrate in any way that those against whom lethal force is used are indeed terrorists… While it is portrayed as a limited 'exception' to international norms, it actually creates the potential for an endless expansion of the relevant category to include any enemies of the State, social misfits, political opponents, or others."
Indeed, like the "inherent powers" of the "commander-in-chief," the definition of an "enemy" subject to arbitrary assassination is most elastic, as I noted in that 2006 article:
In an December 2002 story in the Washington Post, then-Solicitor General Ted Olson described the anarchy at the heart of the process with admirable frankness:
"[There is no] requirement that the executive branch spell out its criteria for determining who qualifies as an enemy combatant," Olson argues.
"'There won't be 10 rules that trigger this or 10 rules that end this," Olson said in the interview. "There will be judgments and instincts and evaluations and implementations that have to be made by the executive that are probably going to be different from day to day, depending on the circumstances."
In other words, what is safe to do or say today might imperil your freedom or your life tomorrow. You can never know if you are on the right side of the law, because the "law" is merely the whim of the Leader and his minions: their "instincts" determine your guilt or innocence, and these flutterings in the gut can change from day to day. This radical uncertainty is the very essence of despotism -- and it is now, formally and officially, the guiding principle of the United States government.
The murders of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan are simply more public confirmations of this firmly established truth. As I wrote back then, "it's hard to believe that any genuine democracy would accept a claim by its leader that he could have anyone killed simply by labeling them an "enemy." It's hard to believe that any adult with even the slightest knowledge of history or human nature could countenance such unlimited, arbitrary power, knowing the evil it is bound to produce. Yet this is exactly what the great and good in America have done. Like the boyars of old, they not only countenance but celebrate their enslavement to the ruler."
In the coming days, we are certain to hear loud, full-throated praise of Barack Obama's murder of uncharged, untried American citizens. And most of these encomiums will come from heartsworn, true-blue "progressives" -- the very people who savagagely denounced George W. Bush for his "murderous tyrannny" when he carried out the very same crimes, in the very same way, in the very same place.
And they will be telling us, yet again, why we must must must support Barack Obama in his quest to win one more term atop the greasy pole of power. They will tell us, yet again, that we must forget these murders -- and the killing of many hundreds of innocent people in similar robo-slaughters in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan -- and work hard to perpetuate and entrench our own slavery in a lawless system whose leaders can kill any one of us at the push of a button, at the pulse of a whim, without charges, without trial, without mercy.
This is not just the usual partisan amnesia, this is not just moral blindness: it is active, open, undeniable complicity with evil.
Our guest blogger today is Lev Tolstoy. The passages below are from Tolstoy’s Letters, Vol. II, 1880-1910, translated by R.F. Christian. First is an excerpt from a letter sent in December 1899 to Prince Grigory Mikhailovich Volkonsky, who had sent Tolstoy some pamphlets criticizing the Boer War:
…When people tell me that one side is solely to blame in a war, I can’t agree. You may admit that one sides acts worse in any war that flares up, but an analysis of which one it is that acts worse doesn’t explain the immediate cause of thee origin of such a terrible, cruel and inhuman phenomenon as war. To any man who doesn’t shut his eyes to them, these causes are perfectly obvious, as they are now with the Boer War and with all wars that have happened recently.
These causes are three: first – the unequal distribution of property, i.e., the robbery of some people by others; second – the existence of a military class, i.e., people brought up for and intended for murder; and third – false, and for the most part deliberately deceitful religious teaching, on which young generations are forcibly brought up. And so I think that it’s not only useless but harmful to see the cause of wars in [this politician or that leader], and thereby conceal from ourselves the real causes which are far more immediate and to which we ourselves are a party.
We can only be angry with the leaders and politicians and abuse them; but our anger and abuse will only spoil our blood, not change the course of things: the leaders and politicians are blind instruments of forces which lie a long way behind them. They act as they have to act, and can't act otherwise. All history is a series of just such acts by all politicians as the Boer War, and so it's completely useless, even impossible, to be angry with them and condemn them, when you see the true causes of their activity and when you feel that you yourself are to blame for this or that activity of theirs according to your attitude to the three basic causes I mentioned.
As long as we go on enjoying exceptional wealth while the masses of people are ground down by hard work there will always be wars for markets, goldmines, etc., which we need to support our exceptional wealth. Wars will be all the more inevitable as long as we are party to a military class, tolerate its existence, and don't fight against it with all our powers. We ourselves serve in the army, or regard it as not only necessary but commendable, and then when war breaks out we condemn some politician or other for it. But the thing is that there will be war as long as we not only preach but tolerate without anger and indignation that perversion of Christianity which is called ecclesiastical Christianity whereby it is possible to have a Christ-loving army, the blessing of guns and the acceptance of war as an act justified by Christianity. We teach our children this religion, we profess it ourselves, and then say that this or that politician is to blame for the fact that people kill one another.
That is why I disagree with you and cannot reproach blind instruments of ignorance and evil, but see the causes of war in those phenomena, the evil of which I myself can help to reduce or increase. To help to share out property equally in brotherly fashion, and to enjoy as little as possible the advantages which have fallen to one's lot; not to be party to war in any aspect and to destroy the hypnosis by means of which people transform themselves into hired murderers and think they are doing a good deed by doing military service; and above all to profess a reasonable Christian doctrine, trying with all one's powers to destroy the cruel deceit of false Christianity on which young generations are forcibly brought up – this threefold activity, I think, constitutes the duty of any man wishing to serve good and rightly disturbed by the terrible war which has disturbed you too.
Tolstoy’s idea of “reasonable Christian doctrine” was, of course, a highly subversive notion drained of all vestiges of divinity and the miraculous, and implacably hostile to organized religion. It was instead based on the radical love preached by the figure of Jesus of Nazareth in some parts of the Gospels, a love that stripped away all distinctions of class, nation, religion, race, culture or gender. In any case, it has nothing to do with “Christianity” as it is increasingly understood – and practiced – in the United States; that is, a nationalist, militarist, wilfully ignorant cult devoid of human compassion.
Tolstoy explains his idea of religion in another letter, two years later, to Pavel Ivanovich Biryukov:
The religious understanding of life, which, to may way of thinking, can and should become the foundation of life for people of our time, could be expressed very briefly as follows: the meaning of our lives consists in fulfilling the will of that infinite principle of which we recognise ourselves to be a part; and this will lies in the union of all living things, above all of people – in their brotherhood, in their service to each other. From a different angle, this religious understanding of life can be expressed like this: the business of life is union with all living things – above all the brotherhood of men, their service to each other.
And this is so because we are alive only to the extent to which we recognise ourselves to be a part of the infinite; and the law of the infinite is this union.
Of course, one often disagrees with this or that aspect of Tolstoy’s thought. (Indeed, even to use a phrase like “Tolstoy’s thought” is, in a real sense, improperly reductive of the restless, contradictory, constantly shifting intellectual and spiritual quest of this troubled, conflicted, hypocritical and altogether marvelous and inspiring creature.) For one thing, he was, like many people of his day – and ours – altogether too obsessed with ideas of sexual “purity” and so on. (Although, given his station in life, he often evinced an insightful awareness of the power dynamics that can obtain in sexual encounters – an insight often lost to us today, until cases like that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn bring it forcefully to mind.)
And to be sure, Tolstoy himself very often launched powerful and detailed condemnations of the specific actions of specific politicians and leaders engaged in fomenting or abetting or acquiescing in evil. The principles espoused in the letters quoted above were not meant to be calls to quietism – something of which Tolstoy could never have been accused, to the sorrow of the Orthodox Church that excommunicated him and the government that sought to muffle the immense moral authority he exercised in the national consciousness. (A moral authority derived, ironically enough, not directly from his political and ethical writings but from the power of his artistry, his fiction, which transcended politics and normative understandings of “morality” and spoke instead the indirect but deeper, broader, more diffuse and meaningful truths that only the highest art can convey.)
But given all these caveats and nuances, I think the quoted passages have much to say to us today. And so they are offered here not as gospel truths but simply as matter for further contemplation.
The New York Times puzzles and puzzles until its puzzler is sore, but it still can't figure out the deep, deep mystery addressed by this recent story: "Libya Counts More Martyrs Than Bodies."
The Paper of Record -- primus inter pares of the national press, shaper and sifter of the zeitgeist itself -- struggles for 27 whole paragraphs in its Sept. 16 story, trying to account somehow for the vast discrepancy between the "martyr count" claimed by Libya's NATO-nudged rebels and the actual number of bodies found so far in the wake of the conflict.
Rebel leaders claim that the dastardly minions of Moamar Gadafy killed well nigh 50,000 innocent people in the dictator's paroxysm of berserkery to preserve his brutal rule. But, the Times notes, "in the country's morgues, the war dead registered from both sides in each area are mostly in the hundreds, not the thousands. And those who ware still missing total as few as 1,000, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross."
The Times doesn't bother to add up the various regional body counts it throws around in the story, but a very rough estimate from this rigorous and detailed reporting would put the overall death total somewhere around 5,000 or so. Yet over and over, NATO's new nabobs in Libya declare that tens of thousands of people were killed by government forces in the conflict.
(We know, of course, that not a single innocent person was killed by NATO bombs and missiles in the relentless barrage of humanitarian ordnance the Western alliance heaped on Libya during the many months of fighting. NATO bombs are programmed with super-secret computer chips that can detect a person's ideological aroma and will kill only those isolated individuals who stink of evil, while enveloping all innocent bystanders with a protective foam that keeps them safe, shines their shoes and moisturizes their skin at the same time.)
The Times chews over this discrepancy at great length, quoting rebel leaders (at great length), and making several references to "well-documented war crimes by the Gadafy regime (while finding room for only the briefest, barest mention, after 20 paragraphs, of another well-documented war crime: the "ethnic cleansing" of black immigrants by the rebels, including mass murder).
But still, despite bringing all the professional firepower of higher journalism to bear on the question, the Times can simply find "no explanation" for the gap between the new nabob's numbers and the actual death count.
Poor little newspaper. Poor little fond, foolish pollyanna. Oh, how it rends the heart to shatter such sweet, trusting, adorable innocence. But what can one do? The cosseted little lamb must learn the sad truth sometime. And so, in sorrow, we beckon the Times to toddle toward us, so we can whisper, gently, in its delicate ear:
"The rebels are lying, sweetheart. They're using false, inflated numbers because it makes them look better and their enemies look worse. Oh, please don't cry. That's just the way it is in the wicked world of grown-ups. Leaders lie -- constantly, continually, incessantly, obsessively -- to serve their own purposes."
Now, you know and I know that the Times knows that the rebel leaders are lying about the death count. But you know and I know that the Times also knows that it cannot come out and state this plain fact in a plain fashion. The rebel leaders are still under the aegis of imperial favor; thus their credibility cannot yet be directly contradicted by our court scribes and chroniclers. If and when the rebels lose this favor -- if their Islamist faction comes too publicly to the fore, say, or, even worse, if the oil deals with their "Western partners" aren't sweet enough -- why then, we will hear in no uncertain terms what a great pack of rotten liars they all are, and always have been.
But until that time, the Unshakeable Somnolence of America will not be disturbed by any such plain truths.
For days, weeks on end, we have been bombarded with earnest disquisitions on the “meaning” of 9/11, its implications for America and the world ten years down the line. Oceans of newsprint and blizzards of pixels have been expended on this question. But in all the solemn piety and savvy punditry surrounding the commemoration of the attacks, almost nothing has been said about the place where the true “legacy of 9/11” can be seen in its stark quintessence: Somalia.
That long-broken land is, in so many ways, a hell of our own creation. Year by year, stage by stage, American policy has helped drive Somalia ever deeper into the pit. Millions of people have been plunged into anguish; countless thousands have lost their lives. It seems unimaginable that the situation could get even worse – and yet that is precisely where we are today: on the precipice of yet another horrific drop into the abyss.
By now it should go without saying that the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House has continued, entrenched and expanded his predecessor's failed and corrupt policies in Somalia, as he has in so many parts of the degraded American imperium. And it is in Somalia that our serious, savvy bipartisan elite -- and their innumerable enablers on both sides of the political fence -- are building up what may turn out to be the mother of all blowbacks: generations of implacable hatred sprung from unfathomable suffering, inflicted on innocent people by vicious warlords in the pay of the CIA, by America's own death squads ranging through the land, and by the entirely predictable (indeed, predicted) extremist insurgencies that arise in the chaos our elites create in their imperial marauding. Here, if anywhere, is the true legacy of 9/11.
The Way of the Warlord
All of this is captured vividly in a new article by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation. His piece, based on solid reporting in the field, is by far the best overview I've seen of the situation in Somalia today -- and of how we got to this horrendous pass.
Scahill notes how the current situation is exemplified by one of the many warlords now being funded by the Peace Laureate:
The notorious Somali paramilitary warlord who goes by the nom de guerre Indha Adde, or White Eyes …is not simply a warlord, at least not officially, anymore. Nowadays, he is addressed as Gen. Yusuf Mohamed Siad, and he wears a Somali military uniform, complete with red beret and three stars on his shoulder. His weapons and his newfound legitimacy were bestowed upon him by the US-sponsored African Union force, known as AMISOM, that currently occupies large swaths of Mogadishu.
… Yusuf Mohamed Siad was not always known just as Indha Adde. As one of the main warlords who divided and destroyed Somalia during the civil war that raged through the 1990s, he brutally took control of the Lower Shabelle region, which was overwhelmingly populated by a rival clan, earning him the moniker “The Butcher.” Then ... he remade himself into an Islamic sheik of sorts in the mid-2000s and vowed to fight foreign invaders, including rival warlords funded and directed by the CIA.
Perhaps more than any other figure, Indha Adde embodies the mind-boggling constellation of allegiances and double-crosses that has marked Somalia since its last stable government fell in 1991. And his current role encapsulates the contradictions of the country’s present: he is a warlord who believes in Sharia law, is friendly with the CIA, and takes money and weapons from AMISOM. …Over the past year, the Somali government and AMISOM have turned to some unsavory characters in a dual effort to build something resembling a national army and, as the United States attempted to do with its Awakening Councils in the Sunni areas of Iraq in 2006, to purchase strategic loyalty from former allies of the current enemy -- in this case, the Shabab. Some warlords, like Indha Adde, have been given government ministries or military rank in return for allocating their forces to the fight against the Shabab. Several are former allies of Al Qaeda or the Shabab, and many fought against the US-sponsored Ethiopian invasion in 2006 or against the US-led mission in Somalia in the early 1990s that culminated in the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident.
This was precisely the same policy adopted by George W. Bush in 2002, when it was apparently feared that the tiny handful of scattered individuals then in Somalia who might possibly have some loose connection or vague adherence to "al Qaeda" would ... er ... build rocket ships that would drop atom bombs on the Super Bowl, or something. In any case, in the vast, Big Bang-like expansion of power and profiteering that gorged the military-security complex after 9/11, it was thought that “something” had to be done in Somalia. And that “something” was taking American taxpayer money away from schools, roads, hospitals and parks and giving it to Somali warlords, who proceeded to terrorize their own people … and fuel an Islamic insurgency, ostensibly the very outcome the policy was designed to prevent. Scahill notes:
The “US government was not helping the [Somali] government but was helping the warlords that were against the government,” Buubaa, the former foreign minister, tells me. Washington “thought that the warlords were strong enough to chase away the Islamists or get rid of them. But it did completely the opposite. Completely the opposite.” … By the beginning of 2006 (if not well before), the CIA’s warlords had become universally despised in Mogadishu. Nearly everyone I interviewed in Mogadishu about this period characterized them as murderers and criminals. The warlords formed a formal coalition whose title reeked of CIA influence: the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism.
“This was a turning point in Somalia,” says Aynte. At the time, he explains, the Islamic courts were little more than small groups of poorly armed, autonomous militias who supported the implementation of Sharia law and the provision of social services in their regions as a counterbalance to the warlord-sponsored lawlessness that infected the country. They had no central authority. “But they realized that the sooner they unite, the sooner they can defend these innocent people who have been murdered across the city.” And so they formed the Islamic Courts Union, and local businessmen funded it, allowing the ICU to purchase weapons to take on the warlords. “People started siding with the Islamic courts,” says Buubaa. The ICU “brought about some semblance of order and stability to Mogadishu. And a lot of people in Mogadishu appreciated that.”
In the summer of 2006 the ICU, along with fighters from the Shabab, ran the CIA’s men out of town. “The warlords were ejected out of Mogadishu for the first time in sixteen years. No one thought this was possible,” recalls Aynte. From June to December 2006, the ICU “brought a modicum of stability that’s unprecedented in Mogadishu,” reopening the airport and the seaport. “You could drive in Mogadishu at midnight, no problem, no guards. You could be a foreigner or Somali. It was at total peace.”
Peace is No Object: The Essence of Imperium
But of course peace was not what Washington had in mind for Somalia. It is never the object of imperial foreign policy. The object was, as always, domination. Obedience. A regime that toes the line – and crosses the palms of Western elites with the proper amount of silver. The Islamic Courts Union was outside of Washington’s control. One couldn’t “do business” with them. They were the wrong kind of Muslim fundamentalist – not like those nice head-choppers and hand-choppers and palm-crossers in Saudi Arabia. So the ICU – and Somalia’s brief window of peace – had to go. Scahill:
Most of the entities that made up the Islamic Courts Union did not have anything resembling a global jihadist agenda. Nor did they take their orders from Al Qaeda. The Shabab was a different story, but it was not the most influential or powerful of the ICU groups. Moreover, clan politics in Somalia held the foreign operatives in check. “We deployed our fighters to Mogadishu with the intent of ceasing the civil war and bringing an end to the warlords’ ruthlessness,” says Sheik Ahmed Mohammed Islam, whose Ras Kamboni militia, based in the Jubba region of southern Somalia, joined the ICU in 2006. “Those of us within the ICU were people with different views; moderates, midlevel and extremists.” …
But by most credible accounts, the Al Qaeda influence at the time was small -- consisting of about a dozen foreign operatives and a handful of Somalis with global jihadist aspirations. A UN cable from June 2006, containing notes of a meeting with senior State Department and US military officials from the Horn of Africa task force, indicates that the United States was aware of the ICU’s diversity, but would “not allow” it to rule Somalia. The United States, according to the notes, intended to “rally with Ethiopia if the ‘Jihadist’ took over.” The cable concluded, “Any Ethiopian action in Somalia would have Washington’s blessing.” Some within the US intelligence community called for dialogue or reconciliation, but their voices were drowned out by hawks determined to overthrow the ICU.
Note well the telling phrase in the passage above: the United States would “not allow” the ICU to rule Somalia. There, in sum, in microcosm, is the essence of the American Imperium, its guiding philosophy and modus operandi for more than 65 years: no nation has the right to determine its own destiny. Only the American power elite can make that decision: it can “allow” a government to rule, if it suits American interests – or else it can institute “regime change.” This is the bedrock principle that informs and determines American foreign policy across the board, across both parties, and across many decades.
(Of course, this principle cannot always be put into practice to the extent that our elites would like: a frustration that accounts for, say, the vindictive strangulation of Cuba for more than half a century – during which time Washington has “done business” with regimes far more repressive. But it is the pliability of a regime, not its political structure – and certainly not its attitude toward human rights – that determines its “legitimacy” in Washington’s eyes.)
Scahill goes on:
...The United States “had already misread the events by aiding heinous warlords. And they misread it again. They should have taken this as an opportunity to engage the Union of Islamic Courts,” asserts Aynte. “Because out of the thirteen organizations that formed the [ICU], twelve were Islamic courts, clan courts who had no global jihad or anything. Most of them never left Somalia. These were local guys. Al Shabab was the only threat, that was it. And they could have been somehow controlled.”
Perhaps. But control of Shabab was not the issue. Control of the ICU was. And since this was not forthcoming, then many, many thousands of innocent people had to be murdered. This is what Washington proceeded to do. The Bush Administration instigated the slaughter; the bipartisan foreign policy establishment gave its approval.
.....The Ethiopians invaded on December 24. It was a classic proxy war coordinated by Washington and staffed by 40,000-50,000 Ethiopian troops. “The US sponsored the Ethiopian invasion, paying for everything including the gas that it had to expend, to undertake this. And you also had US forces on the ground, US Special Operations forces. You had CIA on the ground. US airpower was a part of the story as well. All of which gave massive military superiority to the Ethiopians,” says Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization …
The US-backed Ethiopian forces swiftly overthrew the Islamic Courts Union and sent its leaders fleeing or to the grave. Many were rendered to Ethiopia, Kenya or Djibouti; others were killed by US Special Operations forces or the CIA. ….“If you know the history of Somalia, Ethiopia and Somalia were archenemies, historical enemies, and people felt that this was adding insult to the injury,” says Aynte. “An insurgency was born out of there.”
Again, as we have seen constantly, repeatedly throughout this low, dishonest decade, a policy ostensibly designed to quell extremism and insurgency instead creates it. Given the clock-like regularity of this outcome, a cynic might be forgiven for beginning to detect a pattern that could almost be described as deliberate.
As in Iraq, the lawless invasion bred an endless cycle of further crimes, which I wrote about extensively at the time. [For more, see “Silent Surge: The Bipartisan Terror War Intensifies in Somalia,” especially the links at the end.] Scahill gives a capsule description of the American-induced invasion and its aftermath:
The Ethiopian invasion was marked by indiscriminate brutality against Somali civilians. Ethiopian and Somali government soldiers secured Mogadishu’s neighborhoods by force, raiding houses in search of ICU combatants, looting civilian property and beating or shooting anyone suspected of collaboration with antigovernment forces. They positioned snipers on the roofs of buildings and reportedly responded to any attack with disproportionate fire, shelling densely populated areas and several hospitals, according to Human Rights Watch.
Extrajudicial killings by Ethiopian soldiers were widely reported, particularly in the final months of 2007. Reports of Ethiopian soldiers “slaughtering” men, women and children “like goats” -- slitting throats -- were widespread, according to Amnesty International. Both Somali government and Ethiopian forces were accused of horrific sexual violence.
.... If Somalia was already a playground for Islamic militants, the Ethiopian invasion blew open the gates of Mogadishu for Al Qaeda. Within some US counterterrorism circles, the rise of the Shabab in Somalia was predictable and preventable. ....
Predictable. Preventable. Again, the same old pattern. Terrorize people with your warlords and proxies, your black ops and secret armies – and you will breed terror in return.
The Death Squads of the Peace Laureate
In 2008, of course, the United States finally had its own “regime change.” The despised and discredited Bush Regime left office, and a fresh-faced “agent of change” swept into power, riding in on a wave of global goodwill unprecedented in modern times. Lauded, laureled, he stood at the center of a transformative moment in history, when, lifted on that mighty wave, the ship of state could have been turned from the course of empire and set in a new direction.
That never happened, of course. It was never going to happen. Obama himself had made clear, throughout his campaign, that he did not have the slightest interest in changing the imperial course (as opposed to recalibrating the imperial PR a bit). And so it has proven – nowhere more so than in Somalia, as Scahill notes:
When President Obama took office in 2009, the United States increased its covert military involvement in and around Somalia, as the CIA and JSOC intensified air and drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen, and began openly hunting people the United States alleged were Al Qaeda leaders. In September of that year, Obama authorized the assassination of Saleh Ali Nabhan, in his administration’s first known targeted-killing operation in Somalia. A JSOC team helicoptered into Somalia and gunned down Nabhan. JSOC troops then landed and collected the body.
By late 2010 the Obama administration unveiled what it referred to as a “dual-track” approach to Somalia wherein Washington would simultaneously deal with the “central government” in Mogadishu as well as regional and clan players in Somalia. “The dual track policy only provides a new label for the old (and failed) Bush Administration’s approach,” observed Somalia analyst Afyare Abdi Elmi. “It inadvertently strengthens clan divisions, undermines inclusive and democratic trends and most importantly, creates a conducive environment for the return of the organized chaos or warlordism in the country.”
The dual-track policy encouraged self-declared, clan-based regional administrations to seek recognition and support from the United States. “Local administrations are popping up every week,” says Aynte. “Most of them don’t control anywhere, but people are announcing local governments in the hopes that CIA will set up a little outpost in their small village.”
The New York Times had more on Obama’s “dual-track approach” in a story over the weekend:
For the first time in years, the Shabab Islamist group that has long tormented Somalis is receding from several areas at once, including this one, handing the Transitional Federal Government an enormous opportunity to finally step outside the capital and begin uniting this fractious country after two decades of war. Instead, a messy, violent, clannish scramble is emerging over who will take control.
… Already, clashes have erupted between the anti-Shabab forces fighting for the spoils, and roadblocks operated by clan militias have resurfaced on the streets of Mogadishu, even though the government says it is in control. Many analysts say both the Shabab and the government are splintering and predict that the warfare will only increase, complicating the response to Somalia’s widening famine.
“What you now have is a free-for-all contest in which clans are unilaterally carving up the country into unviable clan enclaves and cantons,” said Rashid Abdi, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, which studies conflicts. “The way things are going, the risk of future interregional wars and instability is real,” Mr. Abdi added, “even after Al Shabab is defeated.”
More than 20 separate new ministates, including one for a drought-stricken area incongruously named Greenland, have sprouted up across Somalia, some little more than Web sites or so-called briefcase governments, others heavily armed, all eager for international recognition and the money that may come with it.
Officials with the 9,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force, the backbone of security in Mogadishu, say they are deeply concerned by this fragmentation, reminiscent of Somalia’s warlord days after the government collapsed in 1991. ...
So we are witnessing a return to the darkest days of Somalia’s decades of hell: hydra-headed warfare among merciless warlords carving out petty fiefdoms for themselves through terror, robbery and murder. And what does the Obama Administration think of this development? One unnamed (of course) American official told the NYT:
“It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a local leader with some charisma and grass-roots support.”
The hell of warlordism is A-OK with Washington, in other words – as long as the terrorizers, murderers and thieves play ball with the Potomac overlords, of course.
The Killing Cult of Profit and Control
Scahill also tells the story of how the fruits of imperial policy in Somalia have turned ploughshares into swords, tracking the conversion of a non-violent aid group into one of the most deadly fighting machines in the land. Here too we see how one of the most sinister developments of our age has entered the killing fields of Somalia: the ever-accelerating rise of corporate mercenaries, killing for private profit, bankrolled by public funds.
One of the more powerful forces that has emerged in Somalia’s anti-Shabab, government-militia nexus is Ahluu Sunna Wa’Jama (ASWJ), a Sufi Muslim paramilitary organization. Founded in the 1990s as a quasi-political organization dedicated to Sufi religious scholarship and community works -- and avowedly nonmilitant -- ASWJ viewed itself as a buffer against the encroachment of Wahhabism in Somalia. Its proclaimed mandate was to “preach a message of peace and delegitimize the beliefs and political platform of … fundamentalist movements.”
…By some accounts, the ASWJ has been among the most effective fighters battling the Shabab outside Mogadishu, winning back territory in the Mudug region and several other pockets of land. But like most powerful paramilitary groups in Somalia, the ASWJ is far more complex than it may seem.
This past July, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia declared that some ASWJ militias “appear to be proxies for neighboring States rather than emergent local authorities.” According to the UN report, ASWJ also received support and training from Southern Ace, a private security firm. Technically registered in Hong Kong in 2007 and run by a white South African, Edgar Van Tonder, Southern Ace committed the “most egregious violations of the arms embargo” on Somalia. Between April 2009 and early 2011, according to the United Nations, Southern Ace operated a 220-strong militia, paying $1 million in salaries and at least $150,000 for arms and ammunition.
Southern Ace began acquiring arms from the weapons market in Somalia, including scores of Kalashnikovs, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and an anti-aircraft ZU-23 machine gun with 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Its arms purchases “were so substantial” that local officials “noted a significant rise in the price of ammunition and a shortage of ZU-23 rounds.” The company also imported to Somalia “Philippine army-style uniforms and bullet-proof jackets in support of their operations,” according to the UN.
Backed by Ethiopia and Southern Ace, ASWJ conducted a series of major offensives against the Shabab that the UN alleged were supported through violations of the arms embargo. While Ethiopia and the United States undoubtedly see ASWJ as the best counterbalance to the influence of the Shabab and Al Qaeda, in just three years they have transformed a previously nonviolent entity into one of the most powerful armed groups in Somalia. “To a certain extent, the resort to Somali proxy forces by foreign Governments represents a potential return to the ‘warlordism’ of the 1990s and early 2000s, which has historically proved to be counterproductive,” the UN soberly concluded.
Counterproductive, indeed. Unless, of course, your main concern is not bringing peace to Somalia, but imposing your fanatical agenda of domination and war profiteering– whatever the cost. On that score, the record of American policy toward Somalia over the past two decades is clear. Through Republican and Democratic administrations, through many changes of partisan control of Congress, Washington has pursued the path of domination, exacerbating violence, division, corruption, and plunging millions of people into anguish, despair, starvation and death.
As I’ve noted here before, the leaders of the American Imperium are not cartoon villains, twirling their moustaches as they cackle over photos of dead babies and disembowelled mothers. They consider themselves good people: righteous, caring, humanitarian. If they could impose the strictures of their extremist cult without bloodshed or suffering, they would do so. Osama bin Laden was the same. But as leaders have found throughout history, humanity is a recalcitrant element. All too often, people stubbornly refuse to bow to the vision of reality proffered by the high and mighty, the wise and the worthy. In such cases (which is to say, in all cases), it thus becomes necessary to impose the worthy vision by force. The fate of individual human beings must give way to the higher calling. “Collateral damage” is an unfortunate but unavoidable necessity. As Stalin said, in explaining away the millions killed by the wise and worthy policy of collectivization, “when wood is chopped, chips fly.”
As for Somalia, the chips – that is, the absolutely unique, immeasurably precious lives of individual human beings who love, yearn, fear, rage, weep, laugh, hope and dream with just as much depth and reality as anyone else on earth (including, yes, those killed on 9/11) – will continue to fly. That is the inevitable result of the policies of the Nobel Peace Laureate, as Scahill notes in his conclusion:
Perhaps the Shabab is truly on the ropes, as the Somali government claims. Or maybe the group is implementing [its late leader’s] vision of a guerrilla terror campaign that gives up territory in favor of sowing fear throughout the country. In any case, the Shabab’s meteoric rise in Somalia, and the legacy of terror it has wrought, is blowback sparked by a decade of disastrous US policy that ultimately strengthened the very threat it was officially intended to crush. In the end, the greatest beneficiaries of US policy are the warlords, including those who once counted the Shabab among their allies and friends. “They are not fighting for a cause,” says Ahmed Nur Mohamed, the Mogadishu mayor. “And the conflict will start tomorrow, when we defeat Shabab. These militias are based on clan and warlordism and all these things. They don’t want a system. They want to keep that turf as a fixed post -- then, whenever the government becomes weak, they want to say, ‘We control here.’”
That is precisely the vision and the goal that also drives our righteous, caring, humanitarian bipartisan elite in Washington: They want to say, “We control here.”
This is the foundation stone of the modern American imperium. This is what it is all about. This is the ugly, evil secret beneath all the displays of piety and patriotism, the stirring calls to “defend our values,” the endless evocations of our goodness and specialness. All of it is meaningless. All of it is belched forth in order to disguise – both from the victims and, in many cases, the perpetrators themselves – the true nature of the bizarre, brutal and barbaric cult of money and militarism that now controls American society: They want to say, We control here.
UPDATE: In Monday's Guardian, Madeleine Bunting outlines how American policy in Somalia has been a crucial factor in the catastrophic famine that now threatens to kill up to 750,000 people by the end of the year.
The predicted death toll didn't reach the top of television bulletins last week. Attention was focused on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. But what is almost routinely overlooked – except by longtime observers of Somalia – is that its plight is bound up with 9/11 and the way that the war on terror shaped US foreign policy....
Somalia's catastrophe is about how "humanitarian space" – the principles of neutrality crucial to effective intervention – has been destroyed by US policy in Somalia since 9/11. This is the key difference with the famine of the early 1990s, when the warring clans still recognised the neutrality of humanitarian aid rather than seeing it as a tool of western political strategy. Now the fringe extremist Islamist al-Shabaab militia, who control many parts of Somalia, will not allow access to most western aid agencies .... The result is that there is no one who can engineer the massive logistical effort required to provide the food needed.
The hostility of al-Shabaab to western aid is in all the media reports on the famine. It plays easily into stereotypes of senseless and cruel violence in obscure African conflicts. But what is often omitted is any explanation of why al-Shabaab are so hostile to westerners – one honourable exception is the US journalist Jeremy Scahill, who uncovered CIA sites in Mogadishu. His reports trace how al-Shabaab's suspicion is rooted in the experience of a decade of devious US manipulation.
Much of that manipulation is noted above. But Bunting also points to another important factor:
Soon after 9/11, the US froze the assets of Somalia's biggest remittance agency and a pillar of the economy, al-Barakat, and many lost money. Another US counterterrorism measure criminalised organisations whose support could end up in the hands of those with terrorist links. This has made any negotiations with al-Shabaab over aid to the regions they control very difficult for aid agencies.
There is much more in the article, which also draws on Scahill's work, and adds other information and insights as well. Both pieces should be read in full.Add a comment
Five years ago, I wrote several articles about a horrific massacre of Iraqi civilians in Ishaqi. Credible evidence and eyewitness testimony indicated that American soldiers, in the course of a raid, had executed unarmed civilians -- including several small children -- then called in an airstrike to destroy the house, and the evidence of these murders.
At the time, these articles were criticized by some for putting the "worst case" construction on the evidence. After all, in the "fog of war" -- that clapped-out rhetorical trope which has hidden a multitude of sins down through the years -- who could know what really happened? Yeah, some mistakes might or might not have been made -- crossfire, collateral damage, etc. -- but surely no one could believe that American soldiers would deliberately do such a thing. My take -- and that of this blog's co-founder, Rich Kastelein, who put together a devastating flash film on the incident -- was just the usual overblown, knee-jerk, anti-war hissy fit, etc.
But thanks to a recent WikiLeaks revelation, we now know that at least two other groups of knee-jerk, anti-war freaks were also pursuing the "worst-case" interpretation of the massacre: UN investigators, who delivered a detailed report on the evidence to the American occupation forces -- and the invaders themselves. It turns out that American authorities regarded the UN evidence very seriously; so seriously that they took immediate, decisive action .... to cover it all up.
Publicly, of course, the invaders had solemnly promised to investigate the "allegations" with all due speed and diligence; this promise was, of course, an outright lie -- as has been the case countless times with similar "allegations" in America's decade-long war on the world. The atrocity was never investigated by the Americans, who simply tossed aside not only the work of the UN investigators, but also the mountain of first-hand evidence gathered by the US-trained, pro-American Iraqi officials on the scene.
So here we are: we now know that the Americans themselves strongly suspected that the "allegations" were true, that U.S. soldiers had entered a house in an Iraqi village and executed five children under the age of five -- including a five-month old -- and four women, including a grandmother, and the children's father, a young man in this 20s. They had credible evidence for this, they took the evidence seriously -- and they bent all their efforts toward burying the case and protecting the perpetrators (and their commanders). They have sat on this evidence for five years, beyond the end of the Bush Regime and deep into the reign of the Nobel Peace Laureate.
This would be the same Nobel Peace Laureate whose forces, along with their local proxies, carried out yet another mass killing of civilians in Ishaqi last month, as we noted here. Barack Obama has never repudiated the War Machine that routinely produces such atrocities; on the contrary, he has embraced it, praised it, identified himself with it at every opportunity. He has never repudiated the criminal occupation of Iraq, but has instead sought frantically, for months, to extend it, in any way possible, with tens of thousands of "advisers," "trainers," and mercenaries disguised at "State Department security personnel." Along with his favorite general -- now his spymaster -- David Petraeus, he has intensified the Ishaqi-style "home invasion" system in the other war of domination and profiteering that he has not only embraced but boldly escalated, in Afghanistan. He has taken deadly home invasions to new heights -- literally -- with his cowardly drone missile campaign against homes and neighborhoods in undefended villages in Pakistan. And in Yemen. And in Somalia. (And in who knows what other countries in the secret wars and covert ops that his security apparatchiks boast of conducting all over the world?)
Yet it is this figure -- this xerox copy of the despised Dubya -- whom all good liberals and progressives are being urged to support. His election is far more important than the mounds of dead children piling up under his command. His personal political fortunes are far more important than the national bankruptcy engineered by the War Machine he proudly leads and the Money Power he faithfully serves -- a bankruptcy that has opened the door to the destruction of programs, hopes and ideals that liberals and progressives have nurtured for generations. His electoral fate is more important than the generations of hate, extremism, violence and instability being bred by his policies. Indeed, Barack Obama's re-election is even more important than the well-being and dignity of one's own child.
So we are told by the Big Progressive Kahuna himself, Markos Moulitsas. In a recent, super-savyy analysis of the Obama Administration's manifest failures to promote its image properly and thus secure the president's re-election, Moulitsas produces this remarkable passage:
Bottom line, if Obama's approach to governing was proving popular, then there'd be little fault. If triangulating against liberals bolstered his numbers with independents, then that'd be cool! Heck, if slapping my first-born in the face bumped his numbers up with independents, I'd tolerate it. But it's not. His current approach isn't working.
"If slapping my first-born in the face bumped his numbers up with independents, I'd tolerate it." I realize this is offered as a deliberately over-the-top rhetorical flourish (perhaps even as a cack-handed, piles-producing strain toward humor), but it bespeaks a partisan obsequiousness -- and a moral blindness -- that staggers the mind. After all, Obama has actually been killing, not just slapping, first-borns (and other children) at a steady clip for more than two years now. And this certainly hasn't hurt "his numbers" with serious, savvy progressives like Kos.
It is just possible, of course, that these on-going atrocities have in themselves kept Obama from "bumping his numbers up with independents," some of whom might object to seeing mass murder committed by their government. But this is not a factor in our progressives' earnest cogitations. No, it's all about the process, the PR framing, finding the "popular approach" and "not looking weak."
These vast outpourings of innocent blood literally do not matter to our serious, savvy progressives. The only thing that really matters is Obama's re-election, his chance to continue grinding up bones and bodies with his beloved War Machine and his runaway Security Organs for another four years.
This is what it's come to: "Take my child, slap her in the face, if it will help you keep on killing." This is all that's left of the "professional left."
"Up over my head, nothing but clouds of blood" -- Bob Dylan, "Cold Irons Bound"
Here's a story where it all comes together, where the guiding ethos of the age is exposed: torture turned to private profit, state terror as a business deal.
The Guardian reports on a remarkable case uncovered by the legal rights charity Reprieve: private contractors who flew American Terror War captives to torture hellholes around the world coming to blows in court over a grubby dispute over expenses. The case reveals the inner workings of the infamous "rendition" program, where contractors charged U.S. taxpayers for wine and chocolate as they carried kidnap victims to "black sites" and proxy torturers across America's global gulag:
The scale of the CIA's rendition programme has been laid bare in court documents that illustrate in minute detail how the US contracted out the secret transportation of suspects to a network of private American companies.
The manner in which American firms flew terrorism suspects to locations around the world, where they were often tortured, has emerged after one of the companies sued another in a dispute over fees. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the mass of invoices, receipts, contracts and email correspondence – submitted as evidence to a court in upstate New York – provides a unique glimpse into a world in which the "war on terror" became just another charter opportunity for American businesses.
....The New York case concerns Sportsflight, an aircraft broker, and Richmor, an aircraft operator. Sportsflight entered into an arrangement to make a Gulfstream IV executive jet available at $4,900 an hour rather than the market rate of $5,450. A crew was available to fly at 12 hours' notice. The government wanted "the cheapest aircraft to fulfil a mission", Sportsflight's owner, Don Moss, told the court. But it was the early days of the rendition programme, and business was booming: the court heard that Sportsflight told Richmor: "The client says we're going to be very, very busy."
Busy indeed. In an accompanying comment, Reprieve's Clare Algar points out how a single plane, Richmor's N85VM, ferried dozens of captives -- seized and held in secret, without charges, without representation, outside any legal process, even the "laws of war" -- to grim fates in the far-flung gulag:
Over the next three years, this plane flew at least 55 missions for the US government, often to Guantánamo Bay, as well as to numerous destinations worldwide.
These destinations include places that have now been associated with the CIA's secret prison programme: Kabul, where the CIA ran the notorious "Salt Pit" prison; Bangkok, where Abu Zubaydah was first taken and used as a guinea pig for "enhanced interrogation techniques"; Rabat, where prisoners were kept incommunicado and tortured by Moroccan agents who passed information to the US and Britain; and Bucharest, one of the European secret jail sites.
Some of the most chilling aspects of the case concern the "human cargo" the profiteers were shipping for the torture bosses back in Washington. Not only did they willingly transport men who had been tormented, tied up, drugged and humiliated, they referred to the victims by the truly Orwellian term, "invitees." The Guardian reports:
The court documents make only passing reference to the human cargo being transported. Enough details of the rendition programme generally have now been disclosed to know that men on these flights were usually sedated through anal suppositories before being dressed in nappies and orange boiler suits, then hooded and muffled and trussed up in the back of the aircraft.
...Richmor's president, Mahlon Richards, told the court that the aircraft carried "government personnel and their invitees".
"Invitees?" queried the judge, Paul Czajka.
"Invitees," confirmed Richards. They were being flown across the world because the US government believed them to be "bad guys", he said. Richmor performed well, Richards added. "We were complimented all the time."
"By the invitees?" asked the judge.
"Not the invitees, the government."
No doubt. All those who take part in the vast machinery of torment and state terror have been praised, rewarded and protected by the government, in both the Bush and Obama administrations. Indeed, the Nobel Peace Laureate has exceeded the Crawford Caligula in his zealous efforts to quash any and all attempts at legal redress by actual victims of the gulag.
He has also fought doggedly -- and successfully -- to prevent even the slightest nod toward even nominal punishment for anyone involved in the patent criminality of the gulag system. And why not? It's a matter of self-protection. After all, the gulag system has never been dismantled, only tweaked here and there -- and shuffled around to new secret sites. (Although it is true that Obama, being the great compassionate humanitarian that he is, seems slightly less interested in kidnapping and indefinite detention than his predecessor. No, he prefers simply assassinating people outright -- without charges, without representation, outside any legal process, even the 'laws of war' -- and often en masse, with drone missiles that take out whole families, whole neighborhoods. That's the progressive way!)
Algar goes on to make a vital point about the nature of the rendition program:
Air travel is a complicated business: national aviation authorities need to know where in their airspace aircraft are likely to be in order to avoid collisions; trip planners need to keep them informed and liaise with the pilot and operating companies; communications services, hotel rooms and food all need to be paid for.
All these aspects, each with a price tag, are revealed in unprecedented detail. In a word, we can begin to understand the renditions programme as a business, with all that entails.
Gulags, concentration camps, torture centers -- indeed, wars of aggression and domination -- are not simply the creation of a few leaders at the top. They require the willing participation of multitudes of people, at every level. They are, as Algar says, "a complicated business." And "business" is the operative word. Money is essential at every stage of the operation: pay, provisions, transport, technology, on and on -- at every step, someone is making money, directly or indirectly, from the process.
The pilots and bigwig owners of the air charter companies have long claimed they "didn't know" the true purpose of the flights they were being paid for. In like fashion, the train drivers and railway executives who were paid to transport Jewish "invitees" to Auschwitz and other centers of enhanced interrogation and indefinite detention claimed they too didn't know, for sure, what happened to their "cargo" once it was delivered. They had no moral responsibility, it had nothing to do with them; it was just business.
When the profit motive is your ruling motive, your ultimate concern, there is very little you won't do, in the end, for money. Especially if that activity is "legitimized" by your government, overtly or covertly, and countenanced, actively or passively, by the society around you. This is even more true in a society like modern America, where profit is the organizing principle, the supreme value, overshadowing -- and undermining -- all others ... and where the clear, overwhelming evidence of horrendous atrocities and systematic state crime has been met with overwhelming indifference.
As long as there is money to be made from atrocity and aggression -- and as long as this bloodsoaked system retains the tacit approval of a society that puts profit before people -- then the bipartisan Terror War, in one form or another, will go on.
What to do in the face of this grim reality? Many things; but as a general rule, I come back to the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, voiced by one of the characters in his novel on the theme of moral complicity with a system given over to pervasive evil:
"It impossible that evil should not come into the world; but take care that it does not enter through you."Add a comment
Yet another confirmation has come to light of the machinations by the self-professed Christian leaders of the West to manipulate their nations into a murderous war of aggression against Iraq, the Guardian reports.
A letter has come to light confirming the UK government's firm intention to join the United States in the Hitlerian action against Iraq, even if a UN resolution specifically authorizing the action could not be obtained.
In one sense, the new revelation adds nothing to the veritable mountain of evidence we already have of the Western leaders' criminal intent -- much of it directly, and unashamedly, from the principal criminals themselves, in the memoirs from Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others.
But it is useful as a reminder of what is already becoming ancient, irrelevant history to the populace and to the political class: the murder of a million human beings, one of the most heinous crimes of the modern era.
And of course, one primary reason -- perhaps the primary reason -- why this unspeakable atrocity has been so thoroughly buried is the obscene insistence of the Obama Administration to bury, several fathoms deep, all the crimes of its predecessors ... while adding to them with relentless, unflagging energy.
Try to understand this: the murderers of a million (and almost certainly more) innocent people are walking free today, protected, pampered and honored by a system that their successors have adamantly sought to maintain and expand ... by adding new crimes to the ledger of blood, destruction, suffering and death.
You can look up this sordid and evil history yourself, in a myriad of sources. (For example: just search "Iraq" in this website, and plow through years and years of compilations of the evidence for this putrid crime, and the eager complicity of the ruling classes, and their media servitors, in it.) No one in a position of power on either side of the Atlantic has named these war crimes for what they are, nor made even the slightest move toward bringing the murderers of a million people to justice.
On the contrary; they have instead praised and countenanced and continued these abominations, and have built upon to them to commit other, similar crimes elsewhere.
And you want me to take these people seriously as leaders of democratic nations? You want me to enter into deep and complex analyses of their political fortunes? All of these people -- the original perpetrators and accomplices, and their continuers -- should be standing trial for the wanton destruction of human life, for the international war crime of military aggression, for firing hot metal into the guts of a three-year-old child and ripping her body and mind and soul into shreds of inert viscera.
The very sight of these people -- Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Straw, Brown, Obama, Biden, Cameron, Gates, Petraeus, Osborne, Clinton, and the rest of the whole sick crew -- should make any thinking, feeling person start throwing up. Get this into your head at last: these sleazeballs, these blood-soaked, blood-caked, bloodthirsty cretins, are murderers. Child-killers. Worse, by many orders of magnitude, than the serial killers and "lunatic dictators" so beloved by the modern imaginative fictions known as the movies ... and the news.
Get this into your head, and have done with them, with all of them, and with all their works, past, present and future, at last. Or, by God, count yourself as their accomplice.
UPDATE: John Glaser at Antiwar.com adds to the mountain of evidence for the bipartisan American war crime in Iraq, with new deals on atrocities committed under both the past and present commander-in-chief of the occupation forces:
As revealed by a State Department diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last week, US forces committed a heinous war crime during a house raid in Iraq in 2006, wherein one man, four women, two children, and three infants were summarily executed.
The cable excerpts a letter written by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, addressed to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. American troops approached the home of Faiz Harrat Al-Majma’ee, a farmer living in central Iraq, to conduct a house raid in search of insurgents in March of 2006.
“It would appear that when the MNF [Multinational Forces] approached the house,” Alston wrote, “shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued” before the “troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them.” Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.
Alston’s letter reveals that a US airstrike was launched on the house presumably to destroy the evidence, but that “autopsies carried out at the Tikrit Hospital’s morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed.”
The details revealed in the cable are a valuable insight into how many of these house raids turn out. The raids, often carried out in the middle of the night, have become one of the primary strategies of the US war in Afghanistan, with tens of thousands orchestrated just in the last year.
That last point is worth reiterating. The often murderous home invasions developed in Iraq are now the meat and drink of the occupation in Afghanistan. They have become the American way of war: storming and bombing family homes with massive, obliterating firepower, in the poverty-stricken villages of lands ravaged and shattered by the Washington war machine, its local proxies, and the hydra-headed violence these wars of imperial domination have unleashed on the targeted countries. How brave, how bold, how noble it all is.
And of course, the beat goes on. As Glaser notes:
In one notable and comparable incident in February of 2010, US Special Operations Forces surrounded a house in a village in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. Two civilian men exited the home to ask why they had been surrounded and were shot and killed. US forces then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager).
Instead of calling in an airstrike to hide the evidence, US troops, realizing their mistake, lied and tampered with the evidence at the scene. The initial claim, which was corroborated by the Pentagon, was that the two men were insurgents who had “engaged” the troops, and the three murdered women were simply found by US soldiers, in what they described as an apparent honor killing. Investigations into the incident eventually forced the Pentagon to retract its initial story and issue an apology.
This is how they do it -- and are still doing it -- in Iraq under the enlightened leadership of the Nobel Peace Laureate: storm, shoot, murder, lie. Rinse -- with apology or blood money when caught -- and repeat. Over and over and over.
But hey, have you seen the latest opinion polls? Glorioski, ain't it exciting, trying to figure out which feckless, fatuous, fourth-rate poltroon gets to have a turn at the wheel of the blood-greased war machine?!
UPDATE II: In another important story at Antiwar.com, Kelly Vlahos details the Peace Laureate's amazing strides in expanding the privatization of war and "security," as he pours millions upon millions of dollars into the coffers of some of the most vile war profiteers on earth.Add a comment
Note: First things first. Arthur Silber is in low water. He needs your help. In a media world flooded with lies and ignorance, he is a rare and precious voice of truth. Please, go to his site and help him, if you can.
It seems the Freedom Fighters in Libya are upholding one of the most venerable historical traditions of their American mentors: killing black men. The Independent reports:
The killings were pitiless.
They had taken place at a makeshift hospital, in a tent marked clearly with the symbols of the Islamic Crescent. Some of the dead were on stretchers, attached to intravenous drips. Some were on the back of an ambulance that had been shot at. A few were on the ground, seemingly attempting to crawl to safety when the bullets came.
Around 30 men lay decomposing in the heat. Many of them had their hands tied behind their back, either with plastic handcuffs or ropes. One had a scarf stuffed into his mouth. Almost all of the victims were black men. Their bodies had been dumped near the scene of two of the fierce battles between rebel and regime forces in Tripoli. ...
The atrocities have apparently not been confined to Tripoli: Amnesty International has reported similar violence in the coastal town of Zawiyah, much of it against men from sub-Saharan Africa who, it has been claimed, were migrant workers.
Hogtied black men shot in a hospital, by forces armed, financed and enabled by the United States. I wonder if Barack Obama will include this episode in his next inspiring, patriotic "Letter to My Daughters."Add a comment
I was going to write about the NATO bombing of Sirte, where in order "protect civilians" from the now non-existent regime of Moamar Gadafy, the humanitarian lords of the West are now killing civilians at the behest of the new, non-elected regime of the murky and murderous "Transitional National Council."
But as I sat down to the keyboard, I saw that Craig Murray was already on the case. Murray, you'll recall, was the courageous UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who dared expose the horrific tortures being practiced by the "friendly" regime there, which was acting as one of the many foreign proxies for the Anglo-American "war on terror." For his pains, he was dismissed, demonized, marginalized. (And accused at one point of being "psychologically disturbed;" why else would anyone oppose the benevolent policies of our humanitarian honchos?)
Here is his quick take on the attack on Sirte:
The disconnect between the UN mandate to protect civilians while facilitating negotiation, and NATO’s actual actions as the anti-Gadaffi forces’ air force and special forces, is startling.
There is something so shocking in the Orwellian doublespeak of NATO on this point that I am severely dismayed. ... I had hoped that the general population in Europe is so educated now that obvious outright lies would be rejected. I even hoped some journalists would seek to expose lies. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
The “rebels” are actively hitting Sirte with heavy artillery ... they are transporting tanks openly to attack Sirte. Yet any movement of tanks or artillery by the population of Sirte brings immediate death from NATO air strike.
What exactly is the reason that Sirte’s defenders are threatening civilians, but the artillery of their attackers – and the bombings themselves – are not? Plainly this is a nonsense. People in foreign ministries, NATO, the BBC and other media are well aware that it is the starkest lie and propaganda, to say the assault on Sirte is protecting civilians. But does knowledge of the truth prevent them from peddling a lie? No.
It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had
“the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;”
... Plainly the people of Sirte hold a different view to the “rebels” as to who should run the country. NATO have in effect declared being in Gadaffi’s political camp a capital offence. There is no way the massive assault on Sirte is “facilitating dialogue”. it is rather killing those who do not hold the NATO-approved opinion. That is the actual truth. It is extremely plain.
I have no time for Gadaffi. I have actually met him, and he really is nuts, and dangerous. There were aspects of his rule in terms of social development which were good, but much more that was bad and tyrannical. But if NATO is attacking him because he is a dictator, why is it not attacking Dubai, Bahrain, Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, or Uzbekistan, to name a random selection of badly governed countries?
“Liberal intervention” does not exist. What we have is the opposite; highly selective neo-imperial wars aimed at ensuring politically client control of key physical resources.
Wars kill people. Women and children are dying now in Libya, whatever the sanitised media tells you. The BBC have reported it will take a decade to repair Libya’s infrastructure from the damage of war. That in an underestimate. Iraq is still decades away from returning its utilities to their condition in 2000.
I strongly support the revolutions of the Arab Spring. But NATO intervention does not bring freedom, it brings destruction, degradation and permanent enslavement to the neo-colonial yoke. From now on, Libyans -- like us -- will be toiling to enrich western bankers. That, apparently, is worth to NATO the reduction of Sirte to rubble.
All too true. The only slight demurral I might make is with this is Murray's surprise at the disconnect between the noble-sounding natterings of NATO's nabobs and the murderous reality of their actions. (Of course, Murray himself notes that "I suffer from that old springing eternal of hope, and am therefore always in a state of disappointment..") There isn't anything startling about the way the Libyan adventurism has played out. It has followed the old Kosovo template nearly to the letter, with most of the same outright lies by the leaders and self-blinding justifications by the "serious" commentariat.
Murray is quite right to point to the "sanitized" version of the war that we have gotten. No doubt in the months and years to come, the true death toll notched up by the humanitarians will come out ... in dribs and drabs, in obscure corners, or even -- why not? -- in a "major" feature in a respectable publication, whose years-late revelations will be swiftly brushed aside and forgotten. (Like the LA Times' award-winning, multi-part expose in the 1990s of the corrupt and criminal machinations that led up to the first Gulf War.) After all, we live in a militarist-corporatist-police state, but not a totalitarian one; information is out there, facts can be obtained, trenchant criticism can be found -- you can go and see Noam Chomsky speaking in public any time you like. Our masters learned long ago that manipulating and massaging information (and misinformation) is much more effective, and longer-lasting, than attempts at total suppression and control.
Thus Craig Murray was not jumped in an alleyway, or killed in an obscure and ambiguous "accident" of some sort, as might have happened in imperiums of old. He was simply shunted to the sidelines and rendered "unserious" by official disapproval.
But however they twist and torment the facts, the truth remains what it is. And the truth is that we are seeing, yet again, in Libya is the murder, in our name, of innocent people by the preening, lying, self-righteous, silk-suited thugs of NATO.
Another war for oil? Surely not! But just to be on the safe side, the world's oil barons are already moving in to seal some sweetheart deals on that sweet, sweet crude with the new, NATO-installed masters of Libya.
And guess what? It turns out that companies from the Western countries that eagerly rained tons of death-metal on the Libyan people are being given the inside track to the post-Gadafy gusher. Meanwhile, countries that had urged caution in humanely intervening with thousands upon thousands of bombs, drones and missiles to, er, protect human life now face relegation to the outer darkness.
As the New York Times reports, Libya's old colonial masters, Italy, are leading the way in the new scramble, even ere the Green Pimpernel has been found. They, along with other Western oil behemoths, are being welcomed with open arms by the peace-loving democratic rebels, who, er, murdered their own chief military commander just a few weeks ago. But for intervention skeptics like Russia, China and Brazil, there may be "some political issues" in renewing old deals and inking new ones, say the new regime's oil honchos. NATO si, BRIC no.
But remember. This is not a war for oil. Oil has nothing to do with it. Of course, you can find cranks and crackpots like, say, Patrick Cockburn, who has only been doing frontline reporting in the region for decades, coming out with nonsense like this, in a recent piece about the "murderous rebels in Libya":
"The enthusiasm in some 30 foreign capitals to recognise the mysterious self-appointed group in Benghazi as the leaders of Libya is at this stage probably motivated primarily by expectations of commercial concessions and a carve-up of oilfields."
But what does he know? Especially compared to progressive, peace-loving, war-hating supporters of the, er, war like Professor Juan Cole. As the professor himself tells us, he is someone "who has actually heard briefings in Europe from foreign ministries and officers of NATO members." I'll bet you haven't done that! (Although Patrick Cockburn probably has -- for decades. But never mind.) Anyway, Cole assures us that the very idea of oil playing any part in this noble endeavor is "daft," because Libya was "already integrated with the international oil markets."
Well, loath as one is to quibble with a man who has actually heard briefings from NATO officers and all, even the New York Times notes that:
Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with. Some experts say that given a free hand, oil companies could find considerably more oil in Libya than they were able to locate under the restrictions placed by the Qaddafi government.
Less regulation, fewer restrictions, sweeter deals, more oil, higher profits -- no, there's nothing there to interest the oil companies. Or the governments they "influence" so persuasively -- and pervasively. So it must be true, as Cole asserts, that this noble endeavor was no more and no less than a humanitarian intervention designed to safeguard human lives (with those thousands of bombs and missiles), protect the right of free assembly (or at least the right to mill around in one of those wired, barricaded, kettled, corralled "free speech zones" now so prevalent in the freedom-loving, liberating lands of the West), and uphold "a lawful world order."
Cole now looks forward to seeing Gadafy and sons in the dock for war crimes, for, as he rightly notes: "deploying the military against non-combatants was a war crime, and doing so in a widespread and systematic way was a crime against humanity." Unless, of course, you quote "just war" theologians as you, say, conduct a widespread and systematic terror bombing campaign of defenseless villages in an allied nation with drone missiles, as Barack Obama has been doing in Pakistan from the moment he took office. But Cole "agree[s] with President Obama and his citation of Reinhold Niebuhr. You can't protect all victims of mass murder everywhere all the time. But where you can do some good, you should do it."
If only Gadafy had thought to quote a man whose "influence has been acknowledged by such recent leaders of American foreign policy as Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, [and] John McCain"! Perhaps that would have absolved him from the other crimes Cole lays at his door: "bankrolling brutal dictators and helping foment ruinous wars." Certainly none of our Niebuhr-quoting leaders have ever done anything like that!
In any case, the deed is done and now, as the Times headline says, "The Scramble for Access to Libya's Oil Wealth Begins." But the latter is just incidental, of course -- a spandrel, a happy accident, an unintentional by-product of a noble deed done by noble men for noble purposes. Oily business aside, the deed itself is something that should be celebrated by everyone -- including anti-war dissidents like Cole, or even rock-ribbed "anarchists" like Crispin Sartwell (whose call for "exhilaration" at Libya's NATO-bomb liberation receives an answer here from Arthur Silber). Only the dead -- the uncounted, forgotten dead, mangled and buried under tons of liberating metal -- might demur.
As it is written: "Though we seemed dead, we did but sleep." We have finally returned from a series of grueling and at times bewildering traversals of the planet in several directions. Still a bit dazed, we will shortly be back in fighting trim.
In the meantime, I would by no means insult your intelligence by suggesting you go immediately to Arthur Silber's site to partake of the feast of biting, bitter yet buoyant wit and slashing insight that he has produced during our time away. Surely it would be superfluous in me to point the readers of this site to Silber's work; surely your own discernment and good sense have already led you there on a constant and continual basis.
But on the off chance that some stray pair of eyes (among the ever-dwindling pack of peepers that wander by these precincts) have not yet hied to Silber -- do so, now. For there are ugly things afoot -- an acceleration of the already long-accelerating on-rush of the nations of the West into the hardest, most brutal kind of authoritarianism. It is happening on an array of fronts, aggressively, simultaneously, from every direction. As Silber notes in this landmark piece, "Caught Up in Nightmare: Killing Jack Rabbits":
The ruling class now visits on its domestic populations the same fate it has delivered for hundreds of years to those deeply unfortunate peoples who lived in targeted foreign countries. In their pursuit of power, wealth and dominion, the ruling class systematically brutalized, tortured, "relocated" and murdered those foreign peoples in vast numbers. (All this continues today, of course; see Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, et al.) ....
England and the United States are hollowed-out societies, with their former productive capacity vanishing at an ever-increasing rate. In close alliance with the State, the most powerful and wealthiest corporations continue to amass record profits, but only by siphoning up every last bit of wealth held by the numerically greatest, but otherwise weakest and most defenseless, part of the population. Every significant piece of legislation must be viewed in this context. This is true even of legislation which styles itself as concerning matters which would not appear to be directed to policing the "undesirable" elements of the population. Thus, Obama's heralded "health reform" bill, which I dubbed The Fuck You Act, has very little to do with providing health care, but everything to do with brutally controlling the weakest segments of society and extracting what little money they have left for the benefit of already vastly wealthy insurance companies and their constant partner, the State.
Although it is perilous to make such judgments as events continue to unfold, the evidence strongly compels the conclusion that we have entered the death spiral for the West's ruling class. The disfavored members of society have less and less economic resources of their own to be extracted, and fewer (and often non-existent) opportunities for improving them. Simultaneously (and inextricably connected to this point), the same disfavored members are increasingly unable to defend themselves in any area of their lives. The growing surveillance State watches over them day and night, privacy approaches the point of complete eradication, and the State continually adds to the weapons it uses to harass, intimidate, brutalize and imprison them. The State's methods of control are increasingly, brazenly explicit and crueler by the day. ...
If we broaden our perspective, and if we look beyond particular developments and attempt to grasp what is happening over a longer period of time, the nature of the horror that awaits us takes on a clearer shape: The West's ruling class is embarked on a program of killing and elimination. A general caution should be kept in mind. I'm not suggesting that this program is one that the ruling class has explicitly identified, even to itself, at least not necessarily. The ruling class is intent upon increasing its own power and wealth; in one sense, that is its only concern. I suppose, in some fantasy world, the ruling class would be content to enjoy its immense power and wealth while "ordinary" people pursue their own lives of contentment. This, of course, is the goal which the ruling class announces, and which it desperately tries to convince both itself and us is true.
But we don't live in that fantasy world. In this world -- and, I would argue, in any world where brute power is the final means of settling every dispute, especially when that power is consolidated in the State -- the ruling class seeks power and wealth by dominating and controlling the weaker segments of society. The ruling class may not set out to kill those people it finds unnecessary for its aims, but if the ruling class can maintain and increase its power and wealth only by eliminating them, it will eventually eliminate them. This is the logic of the ruling class's desires. It is certainly true that the ruling class could change much of this if it wished to: the productive capacity of both England and the United States could be reinvigorated, and much new wealth could be created and enjoyed by many more members of society. But the ruling class believes that would necessitate the diminishment of its power and wealth, so they will not consider the possibility seriously.
The ruling class dreamed a nightmare, and made it real. We are now caught up in it. For many of us -- certainly for me, and very possibly for you -- the end result is clear: the ruling class intends to kill us. Not today or tomorrow, the ruling class hasn't reached that point of desperation quite yet, but they'll kill us soon enough. We have no value to them; we're superfluous; we're not needed.
Here Silber is giving more eloquent and deeper voice to a theme I was trying to sketch out some years ago, in a piece called "Worm Turning." Written in 2004, it focused on the Bush family, then in power; but of course, the critique applied -- and applies -- far more generally to our thoroughly bipartisan elite. As I put it then (with slight editing here to broaden the point):
... Underneath all this bristling array there is nothing but a tiny white maggot of greed, wriggling and gorging on scraps of rotting meat. No deep beliefs or high ideals inform the [elitist] ethos, which can be boiled down to one sentence: Grab your pile and screw anybody who gets in the way. War, energy and corporate finance just happen to be where the money is at. And raw, secretive political power -- unfettered by courts, laws, legislators or public scrutiny -- is the most effective way to safeguard and augment these investments.
That is not to say that the [elitist] credo lacks all nuance. There is in fact a very important refinement to their wormy greed: Loot should always be obtained without the slightest risk to your own financial position. The "free market" must be shunned at all costs -- and manipulated by string-pulling, deceit and intimidation when competition is unavoidable. Thus the [elite] model is to cozy up to governments -- preferably strongman regimes free to ladle out public money to their favorites with no questions asked. ...
[Our elites] don't sit in dark corners and cackle over the idea of children being chewed to pieces by American bombs. Nor do their nostrils flare with righteous rage at the thought of homosexuality or abortion or nipples on national television. It's just that war profiteering, corporate rapine and cynical pandering to the public's worst instincts are the easiest way to get the unearned riches they crave ...
Perhaps if they could obtain these same privileges as easily by other, less horrific means, they would. As it is, they take the world as they find it, and go about their business without fretting over the consequences -- the dead, the ruined, the spreading hate, the poisoned planet. Why should they care? As the maggot cannot see beyond the meat, so too these men of greed-stunted understanding can see nothing of worth outside their own bottomless appetites.
Back to Silber, and to our garishly nightmarish present-day:
Before the ruling class finally eliminates the "undesirables," there is a necessary preceding step: the most disfavored, weakest elements of society must be demonized. I heard the following article first mentioned by Rush Limbaugh; it was quickly picked up by many conservative commentators (including self-identified "libertarians"). Limbaugh praised the article in glowing terms; he thought it identified the crucial issue in especially eloquent terms. For Limbaugh, the crucial issue was one made familiar in connection with history's bloodiest and most horrifying episodes of mass murder, although Limbaugh himself failed to note that fact. I'm sure it was merely an oversight. The crucial issue is, obviously, that the rioters are, as Limbaugh summarized it, "human only by virtue of their DNA." The rioters are not actually human at all; they are sub-human, animals deserving only to be put down.
There is much, much more in this single post by Silber -- including the deeper historic context of our landslide into eliminationism -- not to mention the other recent offerings: here, here and here. Again, if you have not yet read them, I urge you most strongly to go there and read them now.Add a comment